Children, or the Lack Thereof: An Essay

The other day, I learned via the Facebook that one of my friends is expecting a baby, due in something like two weeks.

“Amanda,” I called from the dining room table, where the laptop calls home. “Did you know Stephen was having a baby?”

“Yes,” Mandy replied from the living room, cranking up her droning black metal music to drown me out.

“When did this happen?” I yelled.

“Probably about nine months ago.”

Makes sense, I suppose. Ask a stupid question …

I’m 32 years old, an age in which I’m officially considered ancient by people who are younger and still a wee child by people who are older. It’s also the age in which everyone I know is either having or has had at least one child. Possibly two or three. It’s that next big milestone in life, the one that in my mind — more than marriage or employment or college graduation or retirement — signifies true adulthood. Once you have a kid, it’s Grownupsville, man. You are officially in the Cult of the Adult. Have fun. Wait, you’re not allowed. Sorry. Even if you were, there isn’t time. That kid of yours is crying.

To be fair, it’s not that I’m opposed to having children, per say; rather, I’m far too selfish to share my time and money with someone I don’t even know at this point. Under circumstances that didn’t involve this potential person — guaranteed to be helpless, demanding and incessantly needy, all traits that I hate — being forged from my own genetic makeup, I’d say it was a no-brainer. Kids? No thank you, ma’am.

Think of it this way: If you were to walk up to me and say, “Adam, you handsome, clever devil. I’m about to introduce you to a total stranger who will monopolize all of your time, cost you nearly every extra penny you earn (which, of course, isn’t any), and whine incessantly when things don’t go his way (and sometimes when they do),” I’d tell you to go ahead and cram this person back into wherever you found him. Except in this case, I helped create this person myself, and cramming him back where he came from might not go over so well with my partner-in-crime. Because I am personally responsible for loosing this attention/time/money black hole on a hapless world, I am obligated to love and care for it for the rest of my natural life.

Really, folks, what kind of a proposition is that? You see what I’m saying, right? To a childless outsider, it seems like a bit of a bum deal. In fact, I know good and well the only reason most parents survive parenthood is by developing the preternatural ability to completely ignore their children, to somehow mentally dial down all of that racket and go about their business. You’ve seen those parents in Walmart happily shopping, seemingly oblivious to the child in their buggy wailing her throat hoarse, right? Uncanny.

“But Adam,” the be-childrened among you are no doubt screaming at your newspapers or computer monitors or tablet screens right now, “Having a child is the greatest blessing in the whole world. Do not miss out. You will regret it for the rest of your opulent, time-obese life.”

To this, I won’t argue. I probably will regret it. But don’t let that go to your head. Regret and Adam Armour go together like desperate cries for attention go with Miley Cyrus (Look, I’m being topical!). Chances are, no matter how happy I am with whatever thing I’ve found on the opposite side of a closed door, I’m always going to wonder if I wouldn’t have been just a bit happier with all the stuff behind the doors I didn’t open. If that sounds like a wretched way to live … well, it kind of is. Oh well. At least I won’t be passing this poor outlook on life on to anyone else.

A few days ago, Mandy and I were picking up some groceries at Kroger — stuff like pizza fixings and chips and ice cream we won’t have to worry about sharing because, you know, we have no children. Near the end of one of those little islands inconveniently scattered throughout the store, a gaggle of three or four women had gathered. At least two of them had small children in their buggies — squirmy, whiny things who stretched their tiny little arms this direction and that in attempt to snag anything and everything in their immediate vicinity. All of these women were super-pregnant. It was as if they planned it. Synchronized pregnancy. Like plump, flightless birds, they squawked at each other, emitting high-pitched noises to convey their pleasure at how pregnant all of them were, what a blessing it was to be so pregnant. Unfortunately, their baby-filled bellies and greedy-children-packed carts were totally blocking the nachos Mandy and I needed to complete the taco dinner we had planned for the evening. We circled them two, three times, trying to wordlessly clue them in that they were in our way. But they didn’t move, didn’t even look up to acknowledge us. Eventually, we left, nacho-less and annoyed.

“Thing is,” Mandy said as we complained to each other on our way back through the parking lot, “even if we had asked them to move, they would have just ignored us.”

Of course. Chances are, they wouldn’t have even heard us. They were, after all, parents … adults … happy residents of Grownupsville. And we are still just children.

Is it really any wonder this is a hard sell?

Is it really any wonder this is a hard sell?

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4 thoughts on “Children, or the Lack Thereof: An Essay

  1. This post is so many things: funny, clever, sad, honest. We had our first baby (not sure there will be another yet) 14 months ago. If I’d waited one more year I’d have been considered a geriatric pregnant person…anyway, I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body before she was born…I felt much of the same way you do now – but for me, I was more put off by the germs kids carry than anything. Now, I kiss all up in her face, her cheeks, her mouth, her hands, her temples, eyelids, and when I see other kids, like the photo you have posted of the screaming boy, I smile rather than wince. Sometimes I think that the people who are most hesitant about having kids are some of the greatest parents. When you anticipate how demanding a child would be, you find out it’s really not that bad…and as humorous as you are in this post, if you were a father, your writing would be all the more funny. I think…well, I hope, you’d find the truth in the cliché that kids really are a blessing one day. Enjoyed the post, keep writing!

    • Thanks so much for your comments. You sound like a wonderful mother. The world needs more of those.

      I always tell people that if I had a child, I would love him or her wholeheartedly. I mean that, too. All joking aside, I actually enjoy being around children. I work for a small newspaper and frequently visit elementary schools for photographs or stories. I think most teachers dread seeing me coming at this point. I get the kids all riled up, then abandon their teachers to pure chaos.

      I love playing this game with little kids where I pretend to know less than they do about a topic … “playing dumb,” I call it. Say a kid is wearing a Batman T-shirt, I’ll start asking her about why she loves Captain America so much. The whole class will get into yelling at me about how wrong I am. I love it.

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